Madiha Ahmad Riaz Image Credit: Courtesy: Madiha Ahmad Riaz

Dubai

It’s been seven years since we started community reports as part of our crowd-sourced journalism initiative — an idea by the Editor-in-Chief Abdul Hamid Ahmad.

When we first started there was a strong sense of doubt that there would be more than two or three reports coming in each week. Even that was considered an ambitious count. We presumed (that would be the right word) that people might not be as forthcoming with issues.

We wanted to create a platform for hyper-local issues to be raised, things that could be addressed by the local authorities, thereby creating a better community living environment. Sanya Nayeem, the Deputy Readers Editor was managing the process.

The response was overwhelming. Within a week, it became a daily report. People had been waiting for an avenue to voice their concerns and Gulf News filled the gap.

Sanya worked with our readers and created a nationwide network of community reporters. And the authorities responded, too, with special mention for the cooperation by Abu Dhabi Municipality, Sharjah Municipality and the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

Today, 2,555 reports later, we’re still going strong. The process is now primarily managed by Rabab Khan, who is part of the Reader’s Desk in the role of Community Interactivity Editor.

We’ve had a number of community reporters over the years, each striving hard to bring change. As time progressed, the nature of the articles changed, too. Now we have a lot more young people writing in, especially with their environmental initiatives. A highly encouraging sign. I hope that they will continue with the same zeal as they grow older and life with its varied responsibilities catches up.

Winners for November

In keeping with the core spirit of community reports, first place goes to Nityashri Sankaran from Sharjah. The pupil raised the problem of two turns being so close together on King Faisal Street in Sharjah, that the risk of collision appears to be rather high. The report was, “Slow and safe driving can make a huge difference to our lives”, published on November 25. What was clever about the article was that, along with the problem, she also offered a solution. A simple one — drive slower. Quite effective, as that would allow everybody enough response time in case of an error. I hope people will take this onboard and be safe.

Second place goes to, “Absence of streetlights needs immediate remedial steps”, by Rohan Kapur from Sharjah. It was published on November 12. He wrote about the lack of street lights in the Al Muhaisanah area of Dubai. A residential community, people talk about it being “pitch black” post sunset. It would be safer for Dubai Municipality to address the matter at the earliest possible.

Third place goes to, “Donation boxes are not garbage bins”, by Madiha Ahmad Riaz from Sharjah. It was published on November 23. The issue she raises is one that has come up a number of times previously - people using donation boxes to dump rubbish. A most unseemly conduct that shows a lack of respect for humanity. We hope better sense will prevail.

PROFILES:

First: Nityashri Sankaran

Published on November 25, 2015

Nityashri Sankaran, a pupil based in Sharjah, believes that social media and the internet are “the best way to reach a big section of society today”.

She said: “I have always been interested in reading and writing and feel well-informed when reading the newspaper daily. We need to be socially responsible and I consider modern technology, internet and social media as effective educational tools to increase awareness. Newspapers are a good platform to reach the message to a wider section of the masses and the community reports in Gulf News can bring about a social change by reiterating positive information to the readers.”

When asked about her report, Sankaran said: “I hope that through my report, I can raise awareness among drivers and inculcate the spirit of being safe than sorry. We as residents witness things on a daily basis and it is our social responsibility to alert the relevant authorities by raising this issue. My neighbours appreciated the fact that I had raised this issue of concern to all of them.”

Second: Rohan Kapur

Published on November 12, 2015

Rohan Kapur, a student based in Sharjah, believes in voicing his opinions.

He said: “Community reports have become a platform for me to voice my opinion, whilst being a constant tool to spark change in the society. An extremely credible way to raise awareness about issues, this is one amazing method to make sure that our voice reaches the right people. Gulf News always makes sure that they get in touch with the concerned authorities and then publish their response too, which is a very efficient method to resolve issues in a speedy manner.

“Most people who contacted me after reading my report were able to relate to the fact that the perpetual darkness is a serious threat to the residents as well as motorists in this area. One of my neighbours also said that while going to the medical centre, there was bad light, the roads were under construction and the workers were walking on the sides of the streets, which forced them to drive cautiously.”

Third: Madiha Ahmad Riaz

Published on November 23, 2015

Madiha Ahmad Riaz, a pupil based in Sharjah, discovered her passion of writing as she read the daily newspaper.

She said: “I started by writing short stories and then gradually challenged myself by writing poems and community reports. I assume that almost everyone in the UAE reads the newspaper and will surely get to know about an issue that is written or talked about. They can then act to make a change. Socially relevant issues are raised in the community reports section, which helps people form an informed opinion. Moreover as the issuess are raised by the common man, it helps strike a chord with the general public.”

— Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor.